Put on a Human Face

David Ethan Kennerly, March 23, 2003

Last night I watched Powaqqatsi, which is one of my favorite movies, again. It mesmerized me again. The protests and war have been heavy on my mind. In the movie, I saw an inspiration. If we see the face of the Iraqi people. If their culture is shown on screen, how could we attack them? If we see them, empathize with them, then we cannot attack them.

My screenwriting teacher had recommended the documentary "Why We Fight" which shows how filmic techniques mask the face of the enemy. How we dehumanize the enemy. It was during World War II. There's a field that we're in desperate need of progress.

Protests blocked bridges and stormed streets. I've wondered, though, if instead of blaring at others, or perhaps supplemental to whooping and hollering, there could be other possible long-term benefits. For all of you sticking around on this planet for the next few decades, a momentary fix is not long enough. It could very well be that momentary fixes got us into this problem to begin with. I haven't gotten many ideas generated, but I had a couple:

  1. Become a ghost. Buy, or better: make, seven or fourteen T-shirts each with a unique perspective and message to end the war and prevent future wars. Wear one of these every day for fifty-two weeks.
  2. Win the hearts and minds. Play movies like Powaqqatsi that humanize all the millions of people outside our borders. Support those movies. Support art, like Guernica, and music. Gee, why aren't the anger bands of the 80s (like Metallica) and the angst bands of the 90s (like Nine Inch Nails and Tori Amos), making anti-war songs? Metallica especially had several in the 80s: For example, Disposable Heroes and One.
  3. The politics of daily living. Place embargos on all US supporters of the war. Don't buy their goods. Whenever practical, buy competing goods of those opposed to the war.

This week at a local Trousers show, I met a molecular biologist, the girlfriend of the drummer. She had taken vacation in South American rain forests. I asked her, "When you look at the rain forest, what do you see?" She saw amazing amount of cures for disease. Most every vaccine or medicine comes directly from a plant or animal. For example, aspirin is just tree bark. She feared that those species would be wiped out before having a chance to cure us. There is something precious in the raw rain forest.

Consider, then something a little farther out there: What if human cultures also contain fragments of cultural vaccines and medicines? Could we wipe out entire cultures? And how about priorities? I love the human species at least a hundred times more than any other species. How can anyone pout for the plight of a puppy when we're actively destroying entire ways of life? I care for all life, but I have my priorities straight, which I believe is essential prerequisite to helping all life.

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